Home > Mutating the Signature > In retrospect, 1984 made a fine sausage–

In retrospect, 1984 made a fine sausage–

February 11, 2009

Our house was a pirate ship that changed colors
the further south we went

Once we had to pretend to wash a neighbor’s dog
so we could wash ourselves and use the dog shampoo

The few times I had to attend school
I occupied a corner with my shadow

Mother told us we were not her dogs
For a dollar we held in our urine for more than eight hours

I eavesdropped on banal conversations
with a homeland kind of insecurity

To throw off our creditors we, the children,
were given fictitious names and religions

I counted on winning a pig or two at the county fair
even though I hated pork with navy beans

I sat on the stairs all night
and pretended I was John Hurt

Market day, previously a day reserved for apples,
became an occasion to watch roadkill from a moving truck

I almost acquired a wooden leg after our run-
in with the revolving door

I seriously considered renting out my mind
for a few dollars and some hospital cafeteria food

It was annoying when those insane people
used to smack us for being insane

Mother followed us around the grocery
when she wouldn’t let us stay out in the car

Father, on the other hand, lost his marriage licence and later,
all his teeth to a gum disease.

He rarely spoke
except to say give me some private or

I’m counting on the lottery even
though I never get the ticket

There’s a lot to do
until you fall asleep

It was infuriating how “uncle” littered
his gossip with my phrases about him watching

My list of infuriating things grew
by yards in my unsteady hand

Practical jokes of yore and yonder:
dribble cups, classified ads, glue in strange places

On another occasion the whole community turned
out in force to shun me

It was summer, yes
We were the last 43 pages torn

out of a novel and no one
could afford a happy ending

by Arlene Ang and Valerie Fox

Download the MP3 (reading by Arelene Ang and John Vick)

Process notes

Arlene writes:
The title is a line from a poem in our book, Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon (Texture Press, 2008). We wanted to work towards real collaborative writing as opposed to writing poems based on each other’s poems. It was written as part of our survival tactics during a 30-poems-for-30-days marathon in ITWS, an online writers’ community. The process: One of us would initiate a poem (5-8 lines per day), and then we just kept hitting the ball back and forth. Afterwards we jumble our lines and edit, edit, edit.

  1. February 11, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Arlene and Valerie,

    wow. what a treat. what a playfully sad, creative and imaginative poem. and the reading was fabulous: as if listening to the outside and the inside at the same time. has that goosebumpy feeling:-) always a good sign.
    favorite lines that got me:

    The few times I had to attend school
    I occupied a corner with my shadow

    and the two stanzas at the end.

  2. February 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    i have been thinking about this poem. And how much you ended up packing in it. Almost like the short version of a memoir (well, i have not read that many:-)) I have been coming back to it a few times now. Not only because I resonate with the explosion of the moments in it, and the experiences presented, but because there is something about the sense of drama and lightness, a view of the world that seems to carry a European sensibility for me, and it takes me back home. Hmmm… maybe that is what we mean when we say poems can haunt us. thanks again.

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